Notice of Intent for Major Capital Expansion – Analysis (1 September 2014)

On 12 August 2014, I posted a link to Carleton University’s “Notice of Intent for a Major Capital Expansion Project” to the province, without any interpretation or analysis of that very important document. I want to partially remedy that omission here.

Carleton’s plans for major capital expansion were done without any meaningful consultation with either Carleton’s Senate or Board of Governors. With the strategic mandate agreement, both the Board of Governors and Senate were foreclosed from consultation by the administration speciously rationalizing that supposedly short provincially-imposed timelines precluded consultation. However, given the forewarning by the province and the date of the final directive by the province in November 2013 (see provincial directive here), there clearly was time for consultation. While not consulted, at least both the Board of Governors and Senate were apprised of Carleton’s strategic mandate document prior to its submission to the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities. By contrast, not only did Carleton’s upper administration fail to consult with the Board of Governors and Senate about the proposed intent for major capital expansion, but the upper administration failed to report the 27 June 2014 proposal to both the Board of Governors and Senate. Senate met the following day, 28 June 2014, but has never been provided with this major capital expansion document. It seems unbelievable that I had to unearth and provide the link to this capital expansion document to the Carleton community, a document that all members of the Board of Governors and members of Senate should have received – but never received – directly from Carleton’s administration. And even after my 12 August 2014 blog posting, Carleton’s administration has still not come clean and disseminated that publicly available capital expansion document, which should be of interest to the entire university community.

The province asked (here) that the strategic mandate proposal and the proposed major capital expansion be based on the strengths of each university. Carleton somehow recast one of our weaknesses, health science, using Orwellian doublespeak to egregiously and repeatedly call health science one of our strengths. Until June 2014, the health science department had one faculty member. Supposedly three new faculty members were hired in health science during summer 2014. However, as of today, there is no record of these people on the official health science website nor is health science even listed as a department on Carleton’s official phonebook. Even if Kim Matheson takes over the helm of health science, which I suspect she will eventually do, health science will still not be a huge strength for Carleton, especially compared with many superb home-grown departments that have existed for decades. At least, in the major capital expansion document, Carleton admits that our health science bachelors program is not intended for ‘pre-med’ students…although I wonder whether anybody is telling that to high school students we are recruiting.

Carleton’s administration admitted (see the 28 August 2014 edition of the Charlatan) that the provincial half of the funding for the new health science building is contingent on long-term enrolment growth. The latest report on enrolments given by Suzanne Blanchard at an open session of Carleton’s Senate showed that enrolment for health science was well below expectations, which does not bode well for a new building, although it does indicate that health science may not be as much a strength as advertised. Furthermore, if the province does not provide capital funding, is Carleton’s administration willing to go it alone to erect new academic buildings?

The provincial directive that drove the strategic mandate agreements and proposals for major capital expansion had as its primary focus jobs and economic development. While jobs and the economy should be a component of many universities efforts, making it the primary focus seems misguided because innovation almost never arises from such pragmatism. Nonetheless, that is what the province asked for. Therefore, it seems very peculiar that Carleton has recommended that our other major growth area will be the business school. Carleton’s most recent budget provided a much larger increase for business than for any of our other four faculties (see my 29 April 2014 posting herein). The major capital expansion proposal suggests a new $35 million building for business, half of which supposedly will be paid for out of Carleton’s own capital funds. The problem is that people who majored in business in the U.S. (there is no reason to believe Canada is any different) reported extraordinarily high levels of dissatisfaction after graduation. A recent survey of 68,000 workers by PayScale revealed that 60% of employees with bachelors degrees in business state that they are under-employed (see here). In that survey, the only undergraduate major that did worse than business was criminal justice, with 61% reporting under-employment. So, if Carleton is really looking to improve jobs and the economy, then investing in business may be the wrong tack. Maybe Carleton’s upper administration is hoping the provincial government will not notice this major problem with business programs. Instead, at least according to the PayScale survey, there is a far better return on investment in science, engineering, and law students, of which only 22-31% of graduates (depending on major) reported under-employment.

The document proposing major capital expansion, mentions Carleton’s plans to establish satellite campuses in Cornwall in Indigenous policy and Niagara in entrepreneurship, Given the raging debates around Navitas (see here regarding corporatization of post-secondary education), CultureWorks (at least we gave them a fourth-floor space that had some of the worst flooding on campus this rainy spring and summer), and our theocratic friends at Dominican College (abrogating “the establishment and maintenance of a non-sectarian college with University powers, having its seat in or about the City of Ottawa” per the Carleton University Act), I can only imagine how unions at Carleton will react to satellite campuses. But I must use my imagination because, once again, there have been no meaningful consultations with Carleton’s Board of Governors or Senate about the proposed new satellite campuses.

On a final note, I was recently asked what Carleton could do to improve Indigenous scholarship, in which Carleton makes some modest efforts. Indigenous studies in its many guises is no more of a strength at Carleton than is health science, even with the funding for one new forthcoming tenure-track hire in Indigenous policy administration (see the 27 June 2014 posting in my Senate blog for details). This contrast between Indigenous studies and health science is illuminating. We are trying to make health science a strength by hiring eight new tenure-track faculty members and giving them a $35 million new building. Why not take half of those resources – especially given our underwhelming enrolments in health science – and divert those funds to Indigenous studies, i.e. hire four new tenure-track faculty members and provide them with $17.5 million for new space to study and teach Indigenous studies. Better yet, trade some of those building costs that will largely be coming from internal capital funds to hire even more tenure-track Indigenous scholars. Or, even better yet, hire faculty in Indigenous health. Apparently, Carleton is starting to lose Indigenous scholars to Queen’s University, a university that actually is putting money behind such efforts, rather than trying to chase dollars of people who will never get into medical school or people who end up severely dissatisfied with their business degrees. This is just one of many suggestions. Maybe such an investment in Indigenous studies is not that answer. But the least that Carleton’s upper administration could do is meaningfully consult with Senate and the Board of Governors about the university’s long-term plans, especially regarding new or growing academic programs, engaging in real discussions, not just town hall meetings that are nothing but a public-relations veneer on a fait accompli. And Carleton’s administration needs to give Senate and the Board of Governors the courtesy of seeing and consulting on the university’s requests to the province, rather than simply hiding them from these bicameral institutions that are supposed to have cognizance over such matters per the Carleton University Act. The secretive machinations surrounding Carleton’s strategic mandate agreement and Carleton’s request for major capital expansion lacked even a modicum of due process.

This blog simply reflects my impressions and opinions from Carleton University Board of Governors and Senate meetings, with a focus on due process. These postings are exclusively from OPEN SESSIONS of Board of Governors and Senate meetings, as well as publicly available outside sources. These blog postings are simply meant as my synopsis and analysis of matters that are already public. For official reports, please see the formal minutes of the Board meetings, as well as minutes of Senate meetings. And, as always, I truly welcome your feedback, especially in trying to make Carleton University a better place for us all to learn.

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